In a recent study published in the Journal of Periodontology, researchers have discovered that drinking alcohol can have a negative impact on the health of an individual’s gums by aggravating existing cases of severe gum disease – also known as periodontitis – or by increasing the risk factors for gum disease. Previous research has shown that poor oral hygiene is a common risk factor for alcohol users, thus increasing the susceptibility for drinkers to develop gum disease and poor gum health.
The results of this study underscores the importance of practicing quality oral hygiene – considered by the American Dental Association as brushing twice a day and flossing daily, while also scheduling regular oral checkups – especially for those who regularly consume alcohol.
A New Perspective
The study, titled “Alcohol Consumption and Periodontitis: Quantification of Periodontal Pathogen and Cytokines,” examined a sample of 542 frequent drinkers, occasional drinkers and non-drinkers both with and without severe gum disease. Researchers discovered that the severity of a regular drinkers’ existing gum disease correlated with the frequency of the individual’s alcohol consumption. These individuals were found to require additional gum disease treatment, as well. Drinkers who didn’t suffer from gum disease saw an increased incidence of gums that bled with gentle manipulation. Bleeding gums is a common symptom of periodontitis.
While the subject of alcohol’s effect on periodontal health needs further research, this latest study provides valuable insight on why people need to make an effort to properly care for the teeth and gums, especially if they enjoy the occasional drink.
The researchers also examined study participants’ clinical attachment levels, which measure the depth of pockets created when gum tissue begins pulling away from the base of teeth, another common symptom of periodontitis. More commonly than non-drinkers, the study found that drinkers who did not suffer from periodontitis showed clinical attachment levels of four or more millimeters. Periodontal pocket depths of three millimeters or more can be indicative of moderate to severe gum disease.
Among the study participants, drinkers without severe gum disease showed a higher presence of plaque when compared to non-drinkers. Researchers noted that the drying effect of alcohol on the mouth could contribute to the formation of plaque, a sticky biofilm comprised of bacteria that directly contributes to the development of gum disease. Additionally, by drying the mouth out and slowing the production of saliva, which helps to neutralize plaque’s affect on the mouth, consuming alcohol contributes a double-whammy to an individual’s oral health.
Gum Disease a Serious Risk
Periodontitis – a severe form of gum disease – impacts one out of every two Americans over the age of 30, making the disease 2.5 times more prevalent than diabetes. Additional studies have found that periodontal disease may be linked to a variety of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even some forms of cancer.
Monroe dentist Dr. Travis Magelsen wants every patient to enjoy the very best oral health possible. If you have any questions about the best practices for protecting the health of your teeth and gums or what effect drinking may have on your long-term oral health, make sure to ask Dr. Magelsen or any member of our friendly staff during your next visit to our Monroe dentist’s office.